That sound you heard? Those were the curtains closing on the Age of the Unstoppable Missile Threat(tm). A ground-based missile interceptor (GBCI) launched from Vandenberg AFB here in California shot down an incoming missile fired from Alaska*. Closing Velocity blog has the story:
For this exercise, a threat-representative target missile was launched from Kodiak, Alaska at 3:04pm (EST). This long-range ballistic target was tracked by several land- and sea-based radars, which sent targeting information to the interceptor missile. At 3:23pm (EST)the Ground-Based Interceptor was launched from the Ronald W. Reagan Missile Defense Site, located at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The interceptor’s exoatmospheric kill vehicle was carried into the target’s predicted trajectory in space, maneuvered to the target, performed discrimination, and intercepted the threat warhead.
As I mentioned yesterday, this test was tremendously important for several reasons:
- It was the first flight test of the GBI since Sept. 2007.
- GBI’s are the interceptors we plan to install in Poland. The US-based GBI tested today is a 3-stage interceptor, while the European-based GBI will be a simpler 2-stage version (basically just the upper 2 stages of today’s GBI).
- President-elect Obama has repeatedly said he would only support deploying "proven" missile defense technology to Europe. Okie-freakin-dokie.
This was an incredibly impressive test. Not only was the entire West Coast of the US part of the exercise, but it involved inter-service cooperation from the Army, Navy, and Air Force, and –get this– the the firing of the interceptor based in California was controlled from Ft. Greely, Alaska. As Closing Velocity points out, this means the interceptor missiles planned for Poland can be joined into our global fire-control system.
Eat that, Moscow.
I remember when, as a child in grammar school, we’d have to take part in "duck and cover" drills when the air-raid sirens would sound. We never knew what it really mean then, but from the late 1940s through the fall of the Soviet Union, we all lived under the shadow of assured destruction in the event of war with the USSR.
That danger receded when the Evil Empire collapsed, but the threat of devastation returned in the last decade as rogue states ruled by various forms of fascists all started seeking nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them with. Even one in the hands of a Kim Jong-Il or an Ayatollah Khamenei is a frightening thought.
But it just became a lot less frightening today.
This system is by no means ready for primetime, of course, nor does it meet all varieties of missile threat, But it validates a major component of the US anti-missile strategy that President Ronald Reagan was mocked for proposing 25 years ago. This justifies all the money spent and should be encouragement enough for anyone to press on with research and development. The ability to defend against incoming ballistic missiles would represent a geostrategic earthquake of enormous magnitude.
Don’t pass this up, Mr. President-elect.
*(No, it wasn’t Sarah Palin taking revenge on California for its vote in the election! )